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Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński

Photo courtesy of the National Digital Archives

Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński

Enchanted Cab

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Read by Piotr Czarnota, recorded by Radiofonia Association
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English translation: Artur Nowrot
I. Allegro
Ask Artur for confirmation,
but you know that I am no liar.
There was little to no explanation,
just six words, plain as day, in this wire:
ENCHANTED CAB
ENCHANTED CABBIE
ENCHANTED HORSE

Now, Kraków's magician, Ben Ali,
who knows what he's saying, said thus:
'It's quite easy to enchant a cabbie
and there's no need to kick up a fuss.

Just show him a magical brooch
to enchant him for better or worse,
and the cab along with him to get a neat package,
but it surely won't work on a horse'.

I decided to ring him in exasperation:
'Are you there, mister Ali? Ben Ali?', I croak.
'Can a horse be enchanted?' 'Most certainly not.
It must be some juvenile joke.'

'T was 2 after midnight, I shivered with chill,
and the postman stood like a rock,
when my hair started growing with such an enthusiasm,
it soon reached my grandfather's clock.
ENCHANTED CAB?
ENCHANTED CABBIE?
ENCHANTED HORSE?

I felt really unwell in my heart and my head.
I looked out the window and saw through the drapes
the roofs of Kraków, like “secundus joannem”,
all piled in silvery shapes,

with stars and leaves below
as big and small as they get.
Perhaps I did really hire that cab
and forgot, as I sometimes forget?

Perhaps I wished to get out of this city,
a man sometimes longs for a trip.
A dream gave the cabbie long whiskers to match,
as he waited and soon fell asleep.
And later somebody enchanted poor cabbie:
the night, the wind and Ben Ali.
ENCHANTED CAB
ENCHANTED CABBIE
ENCHANTED HORSE

II
Allegro sostenuto
From Wenecja Street to the Cloth Hall
I was led by Artur and Tadek.
'T wasn't simple at all with the townhouses 'round
and the night – green and mad as a hatter.
Because you have to, Ladies and Gents, go through the whole night-time Kraków.

IV
Allegro ma non troppo
We stopped at Sub Aethiopibus
(for this house I would part with my head),
when suddenly – look, in front of the Cloth Hall,
just like the wire said:
ENCHANTED CAB
ENCHANTED CABBIE
ENCHANTED HORSE

The light from St. Mary's tower snows,
and the horse – just imagine! – had an authentic nose.
English translation: Artur Nowrot
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Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński

(1905–1953) One of the most eagerly read Polish poets. The image he created of “the enchanted cab” (his poem under the title Zaczarowana dorożka was published in Przekrój weekly) travelling Krakow at night on an oneiric journey has become one of Krakow’s most famous icons.

In March 1946, Gałczyński returned to post-war Krakow with one of his wartime lovers, Maruta Stobiecka. He found lodging in Dom Literatów on Krupnicza Steet, referred to as “The House of 40 Poets” (Dom 40 Wieszczów). Another important Krakow address of Gałczyński’s is the building of the Officers Casino on Zyblikiewicza Street. This is where Siedem Kotów (Seven Cats, the first post-war cabaret founded by Marian Eile, Jerzy Waldorff, and Roman Szydłowski) performed. As the author of texts, the poet wanted to create an atmosphere close to that of Teatrzyk Zielona Gęś (Green Goose Theatre). Yet the convention he proposed did not attract much interest in Krakow: the theatre performed for only one season (1946/1947), presenting four amateur programmes. This might have caused Gałczyński to move to Szczecin just two years later. (ezp)

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